Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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Myrtone
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Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by Myrtone » Thu Sep 30, 2010 8:33 am

Here are some photos of Skoda transportation's latest tram design, posted on Railpage by Tonyp.

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The first thing you notice is that it looks like a low floor tram but it's carbody sections are longer, with no suspended ones, there are two pivoting bogies (one under each end)...
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...as well as one under each articulation, just like a high floor tram/LRV.

As with other pivoting bogie low floor trams, the floor is higher over the bogies than between them...
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...but these have ramp access so it is for all intents and purposes 100% low floor.

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Will any North American operators show interest?
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by mtuandrew » Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:15 pm

I couldn't tell you what this has to do with curves or grades specifically (any more so than other articulated LRVs), but I don't see why North American operators wouldn't express some interest.

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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by Myrtone » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:38 pm

It has to do with a low floor deign that is good on curves and grades, LFLRV stands for Low Floor Light Rail Vehicle. I'll add more information; You may not be aware of it if you live in the US, but tram systems in the rest of the world have had problems with low floor trams. Many low floor designs have fixed bogies (either that or the bogies only pivot slightly), those with bogies sweeping out at big angles always had part high floor. The trouble with fixed bogies is that entire carbody sections are forced to follow every curve.
The only fixed bogie streetcars in North American are earlier Skoda trams in Portland, Seattle and Tacoma and these are unusual, in a bad way, in having part high floor as well as fixed bogies. They might seem to be just fine there but in Prague, where the minimum outside depots is the same as Portland (within depots it goes down to 15m), they have either been removed from the tracks or faced restrictions.
It also has all wheels powered for full traction on hills and suspension for less than perfect track as well as points and crossings.
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by wigwagfan » Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:09 pm

No, but not for the reason you're thinking of.

If you have a Streetcar type light rail system built with U.S. federal dollars, you have to worry about "Buy American" requirements. There is only one U.S. builder of a "modern" Streetcar and that's Oregon Iron Works, a.k.a. United Streetcar. My understanding is that United Streetcar only licensed ONE model of Inkeon streetcar (the model that was purchased directly from Inkeon by Portland, Tacoma and Seattle.)

As there is now a qualified U.S. Streetcar builder, it'll be a tough sell to justify buying a streetcar vehicle from someone outside of the United States. Inkeon will have to license this design to United Streetcar, AND United Streetcar will have to retool their very limited factory to be able to build this car, in order for it to be available to the U.S. market. Given that United Streetcar has had a "factory" in place for several years and have exactly ONE streetcar vehicle to show for it, not to mention a very limited market (outside of the Pacific Northwest, only one city has actually approved a Streetcar project; all of the others are merely lookers, reminiscent of the Colorado Railcar DMU), I'd have to say that this car simply isn't going to be a U.S. model.
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by Myrtone » Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:32 am

wigwagfan wrote:If you have a Streetcar type light rail system built with U.S. federal dollars, you have to worry about "Buy American" requirements. There is only one U.S. builder of a "modern" Streetcar and that's Oregon Iron Works, a.k.a. United Streetcar. My understanding is that United Streetcar only licensed ONE model of Inkeon streetcar (the model that was purchased directly from Inkeon by Portland, Tacoma and Seattle.)
Don't the buy America requirements only apply to those receiving US government funds, with 60% US content being the minimum? At the moment they have only one but they could surely license other Skoda-Inekon designs if desired, such as the ForCity.
wigwagfan wrote:As there is now a qualified U.S. Streetcar builder, it'll be a tough sell to justify buying a streetcar vehicle from someone outside of the United States. Inkeon will have to license this design to United Streetcar, AND United Streetcar will have to retool their very limited factory to be able to build this car, in order for it to be available to the U.S. market. Given that United Streetcar has had a "factory" in place for several years and have exactly ONE streetcar vehicle to show for it, not to mention a very limited market (outside of the Pacific Northwest, only one city has actually approved a Streetcar project; all of the others are merely lookers, reminiscent of the Colorado Railcar DMU), I'd have to say that this car simply isn't going to be a U.S. model.
Yes but they only offer a fixed bogie design with part high floor, does this mean that all US operators receivng government funds has to go along with part high floor even if they would prefer 100% low floor, and that SEPTA, if ordeirng new trollies will need to go along with fixed bogies even if this means easing curves at great cost and inconveniance, not to mention grief surrounding building demolition?
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by wigwagfan » Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:59 pm

As an example, the Portland Streetcar Eastside Loop is funded partially with federal dollars; therefore federal requirements apply. Same for a proposed Lake Oswego line.

It doesn't matter about the technology. A U.S. built Streetcar is available. It must be purchased over a foreign made streetcar, unless the U.S. made streetcar is unusable. Even if the newer technology is "better", unless Inkeon licenses the design to a U.S. builder, it doesn't matter. A perfect example is the Colorado Railcar DMU - it is very much inferior to European DMU designs, but since it was the only U.S. built DMU that can operate in mixed passenger/freight traffic, it had to be purchased. The alternative is rejecting federal funding (which Portland has done up to this point).

In some ways, having United Streetcar build an "American" streetcar could be bad for the Streetcar industry since it effectively restricts the technology available in the United States. Remember, they've had four years to get an assembly line going, and they have just one car to show for it. That's not a good sign.
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by Myrtone » Wed Oct 06, 2010 3:05 am

wigwagfan wrote:As an example, the Portland Streetcar Eastside Loop is funded partially with federal dollars; therefore federal requirements apply. Same for a proposed Lake Oswego line.
If a client has enough money of its own to purchase new trams without federal funding, they should do so.
wigwagfan wrote:It doesn't matter about the technology. A U.S. built Streetcar is available. It must be purchased over a foreign made streetcar, unless the U.S. made streetcar is unusable. Even if the newer technology is "better", unless Inkeon licenses the design to a U.S. builder, it doesn't matter. A perfect example is the Colorado Railcar DMU - it is very much inferior to European DMU designs, but since it was the only U.S. built DMU that can operate in mixed passenger/freight traffic, it had to be purchased. The alternative is rejecting federal funding (which Portland has done up to this point).
Would a tram only capable of negoitating 20+ curves be cosindered "usable" if the curves can be eased to that minimum, even if this means building demolition? How is the Colarado Railcar inferior?
wigwagfan wrote:In some ways, having United Streetcar build an "American" streetcar could be bad for the Streetcar industry since it effectively restricts the technology available in the United States. Remember, they've had four years to get an assembly line going, and they have just one car to show for it. That's not a good sign.
This could lead to a monoply market and thus backwardness.
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by Disney Guy » Wed Oct 06, 2010 3:01 pm

If the U.S. streetcar won't run on the existing tracks due to clearances, curve radii, etc. then the streetcar is considered "unusable" and the transit company can solicit bids from non-U.S. companies.

(United Streetcar will have to retool their very limited factory)

Just about every foreign streetcar builder has had to retool for each U.S. order. One notable exception is Siemens when producing the San Diego, Calgary, and Edmonton fleets in the 1980 time frame.
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by wigwagfan » Fri Oct 08, 2010 12:57 pm

Myrtone wrote:If a client has enough money of its own to purchase new trams without federal funding, they should do so.
Fine. Problem is that most every major project of this type demands federal subsidies. It's true the original Portland Streetcar line didn't use federal dollars, but the current Eastside Loop does, and the Lake Oswego line most likely will. Every MAX light rail line required a federal subsidy. If a city has a way to self-fund it, it can do what it wants, but the number of U.S. cities capable of funding such a project on its own is very small (even disregarding the current economic conditions).
Myrtone wrote:Would a tram only capable of negoitating 20+ curves be cosindered "usable" if the curves can be eased to that minimum, even if this means building demolition? How is the Colarado Railcar inferior?
If it is a new-build Streetcar (which, in the U.S. it will be, then curvature of tracks should be built to accommodate the available vehicles. Engineering a line to use a specific vehicle that can't be procured in the United States would be a problem; if the feds are involved with funding, they have to sign off on the project design before construction starts so curvature of a track should never be an issue for a new build Streetcar. Your foreign-build solution would only come into play on one of a small handful of heritage systems (San Francisco, Philadelphia).

The Colorado Railcar DMU has had mechanical issues like crazy, forcing TriMet to purchase two Budd RDCs as a backup vehicle (and their use is problematic as TriMet doesn't have, nor appears to qualify for, an FRA waiver to operate a Budd RDC) and the WES line is a perfect example of "engineering a railroad to fit the car". The WES facilities (stations, sidings, signalling) are completely incompatible with anything else, especially the extremely common F59PHI or MPI commuter locomotives and Bombardier bi-level cars - in fact if WES were to be expanded, it would require completely demolishing and rebuilding EVERY station platform, and a complete redesign of the track in Beaverton, including the bridge over Beaverton Creek - in fact it would likely require relocating the station to another location. The servicing facility would have to be demolished and rebuilt. The Tualatin station would likely have to be relocated as well. All because TriMet engineered the system to accommodate the DMU, rather than the other way around.
Myrtone wrote:This could lead to a monopoly market and thus backwardness.
There are many "monopolies" in America; how is that 'backward'? You can't force companies to exist and if there is only one company willing to enter a particular market, you can't force a competitor, or force that one company out of business.

Is Boeing "backwards" because it is the only manufacturer of large aircraft in the United States? Is Microsoft "backwards" because they are by and far the largest company to produce computer software that nearly anybody can use without significant computer education (and Apple refuses to make their products more financially accessible, thus restricting their market share to the single digits)? Is Apple "backwards" for having a near monopoly on MP3 players? Is our utility industry "backwards" because in most states (Texas being an exception) you can only buy power from one company; water from one company; natural gas from one company?
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by Myrtone » Fri Oct 08, 2010 5:18 pm

Here in the Australian state of Victoria, we used to have a rail vehicle manufacturer called Comeng (pronounced Komenj), which was abse to to select the best and make it under a licence rather than stick with one inferior product. But then ADtranz (now Bombardier transportaion) bought them. Could United streetcar do what Comeng used to? Is it true as Tonyp speculated on ralipage, that the one model is a startup test case.
wigwagfan wrote:Fine. Problem is that most every major project of this type demands federal subsidies. It's true the original Portland Streetcar line didn't use federal dollars, but the current Eastside Loop does, and the Lake Oswego line most likely will. Every MAX light rail line required a federal subsidy. If a city has a way to self-fund it, it can do what it wants, but the number of U.S. cities capable of funding such a project on its own is very small (even disregarding the current economic conditions).
Is there any way to help as many cities as possible find a way to self fund?
Wigwagfan wrote:If it is a new-build Streetcar (which, in the U.S. it will be, then curvature of tracks should be built to accommodate the available vehicles. Engineering a line to use a specific vehicle that can't be procured in the United States would be a problem; if the feds are involved with funding, they have to sign off on the project design before construction starts so curvature of a track should never be an issue for a new build Streetcar. Your foreign-build solution would only come into play on one of a small handful of heritage systems (San Francisco, Philadelphia).
This would involve property aquisition and building demolition in some cases. Is Philladelphia a heritage system? You might be thinknig of legacy systems.
wigwagfan wrote:The Colorado Railcar DMU has had mechanical issues like crazy, forcing TriMet to purchase two Budd RDCs as a backup vehicle (and their use is problematic as TriMet doesn't have, nor appears to qualify for, an FRA waiver to operate a Budd RDC)...
Electric rolling stock has fewer mechanical isseus than diesel since no transmission system is requried, just a motor driving each axle through a single pair of gears.
wigwagfan wrote:...and the WES line is a perfect example of "engineering a railroad to fit the car". The WES facilities (stations, sidings, signalling) are completely incompatible with anything else, especially the extremely common F59PHI or MPI commuter locomotives and Bombardier bi-level cars - in fact if WES were to be expanded, it would require completely demolishing and rebuilding EVERY station platform, and a complete redesign of the track in Beaverton, including the bridge over Beaverton Creek - in fact it would likely require relocating the station to another location. The servicing facility would have to be demolished and rebuilt. The Tualatin station would likely have to be relocated as well. All because TriMet engineered the system to accommodate the DMU, rather than the other way around.
Do the WES (whatever that stands for) platform heights differ from the rest of the system. Whatever Tri-Met did with railways, one should engineer trams to accommodate the system not the other way round. Tramway networks should be engineered to fit the local geography. Just how far would the bus industry get with customers if they werd told, sorry man, this bus ain't run on nothing but straight paved roads, you guys are going to have to unbuckle evey main street (straighten and seal them), or knock off some of your routes. Can't you see how silly it is to profile even a new system to fit the vehicles rather than the geography?
wigwagfan wrote: There are many "monopolies" in America; how is that 'backward'? You can't force companies to exist and if there is only one company willing to enter a particular market, you can't force a competitor, or force that one company out of business.

Is Boeing "backwards" because it is the only manufacturer of large aircraft in the United States? Is Microsoft "backwards" because they are by and far the largest company to produce computer software that nearly anybody can use without significant computer education (and Apple refuses to make their products more financially accessible, thus restricting their market share to the single digits)? Is Apple "backwards" for having a near monopoly on MP3 players? Is our utility industry "backwards" because in most states (Texas being an exception) you can only buy power from one company; water from one company; natural gas from one company?
I was thinking of cases where the monopoly results from forcing all clients to purchase from one supplier when they could otherwise go along with other better suppliers.
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by wigwagfan » Sat Oct 16, 2010 10:58 pm

Myrtone wrote:Here in the Australian state of Victoria, we used to have a rail vehicle manufacturer called Comeng (pronounced Komenj), which was abse to to select the best and make it under a licence rather than stick with one inferior product. But then ADtranz (now Bombardier transportaion) bought them. Could United streetcar do what Comeng used to? Is it true as Tonyp speculated on ralipage, that the one model is a startup test case.
Maybe. But United Streetcar has spent a lot of time building a factory and tooling for one design, and has one car to show for it and just one order from, IIRC, Tucson. If they can license the design, more power to them.
Myrtone wrote:Is there any way to help as many cities as possible find a way to self fund?
What kind of help are you talking about? Sure, a city could ask someone else how they afforded it. But the minute that a single dollar of federal money is kicked in, you're forced to comply with federal regulations - and that includes Buy American.

In fact, just this week I saw a newspaper insert for the Rail-Volution conference being held here in Portland. And on the back page of that insert was an ad for United Streetcar...and sure enough, there it was as a bullet point in big, bold, italic letters: "BUY AMERICAN COMPLIANT".
Myrtone wrote:This would involve property aquisition and building demolition in some cases. Is Philladelphia a heritage system? You might be thinknig of legacy systems.
Not necessarily; the Portland Streetcar was built generally in-street.
Myrtone wrote:Do the WES (whatever that stands for) platform heights differ from the rest of the system. Whatever Tri-Met did with railways, one should engineer trams to accommodate the system not the other way round. Tramway networks should be engineered to fit the local geography.
I agree. That's why I am questioning why anyone would buy the car you are talking about. Unless it is an existing line that has clearance issues that would make the United Streetcar vehicle unsuitable, then the line is going to be built with all of the factors in mind - geography AND vehicle. You wouldn't build a railroad track that meets the geography, and then come to realize that there's not a single piece of rolling stock that would run on it - would you? You wouldn't build a track with a gauge of 51 inches, for example, when all of the equipment out there wants to run on a 56.5 inch gauge track.

I'm not saying that the 100% low floor vehicle is a bad design by any stretch of the imagination; and if it were locally available it would certainly be a worthy option to look at. But your question up front was would any U.S. streetcar systems buy it, and I responded no - not because it's an inferior product, but because it doesn't meet Buy American requirements, nearly every Streetcar project in the United States is a new build line, and federal dollars are involved in almost every Streetcar project now. It's not a vehicle issue, it's a legal issue.
Myrtone wrote:I was thinking of cases where the monopoly results from forcing all clients to purchase from one supplier when they could otherwise go along with other better suppliers.
Again, it's a legal issue. Unfortunately there is only one manufacturer of a modern streetcar in the U.S. so that's your option, take it or leave it. Just like when Colorado Railcar was selling their DMUs - if you wanted to start a commuter rail line with DMU equipment you essentially had one choice. There were two agencies that were able to jump through a lot of hoops and use other equipment - and I don't believe that either the NJT River Line or the NCTD Sprinter received federal funding, thus allowing them to purchase Swiss and German made equipment. (However Siemens has stated that any future orders for the Desiro DMU vehicle will be built at their Sacramento LRV plant.)

Maybe if the streetcar craze grows, we'll see more than one Streetcar manufacturer. Maybe well see Inkeon enter into an actual partnership so that any of its European spec cars can be easily built here in the U.S. Maybe we'll see Bombardier open up a U.S. plant for its streetcar that it had demonstrated in Vancouver, BC during the Winter Olympics. I believe Europe has some excellent rolling stock available - the Bombardier Talent is one of my favorite DMU designs, but I won't see it here in the U.S.
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by wigwagfan » Sat Oct 16, 2010 11:09 pm

Myrtone wrote:Here in the Australian state of Victoria, we used to have a rail vehicle manufacturer called Comeng (pronounced Komenj), which was abse to to select the best and make it under a licence rather than stick with one inferior product.
You probably know far, far better than I do but it seems that Australia has some law that makes it preferable for a local Australian firm to license technology from abroad and build it locally; thus the large number of locomotives built that are licensed from EMD and built by Clyde Engineering as an example; or that General Motors has their own plants in Australia rather than importing vehicles from the U.S.
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by mtuandrew » Sat Oct 16, 2010 11:49 pm

wigwagfan wrote:Maybe if the streetcar craze grows, we'll see more than one Streetcar manufacturer. Maybe well see Inkeon enter into an actual partnership so that any of its European spec cars can be easily built here in the U.S. Maybe we'll see Bombardier open up a U.S. plant for its streetcar that it had demonstrated in Vancouver, BC during the Winter Olympics. I believe Europe has some excellent rolling stock available - the Bombardier Talent is one of my favorite DMU designs, but I won't see it here in the U.S.
A lot of the same points came up in the "Why Not Make More PCCs?" thread, for the same reasons - it's a limited market in the US still.

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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by Myrtone » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:50 am

wigwagfan wrote:
Myrtone wrote:This would involve property aquisition and building demolition in some cases. Is Philladelphia a heritage system? You might be thinknig of legacy systems.
Not necessarily; the Portland Streetcar was built generally in-street.
The Portland system might have been but in some cases, curves as tight as 15m might be needed. And why does Philadelphia have curves as tight as 10m?
wigwagfan wrote:Unless it is an existing line that has clearance issues that would make the United Streetcar vehicle unsuitable, then the line is going to be built with all of the factors in mind - geography AND vehicle. You wouldn't build a railroad track that meets the geography, and then come to realize that there's not a single piece of rolling stock that would run on it - would you?
You wouldn't do that with railways but tramways are different. With tramways, if you ask me, being from a city with a legacy system (Melbourne), tramways should be engineered to fit the local geography as long as a client is ordering a custom design, or an existing model can be customized to fit the system. Railways are straighter and more level than tramways.
wigwagfan wrote:You wouldn't build a track with a gauge of 51 inches, for example, when all of the equipment out there wants to run on a 56.5 inch gauge track.
Are you a decimalite? 51 inches instead of 4ft3 and 55.5 instead 4ft8.5? And speaking of gauge, the Philadelphia system is built to the Pennsylvania trolley gauge, as were the previous systems of Pittsburgh and Baltimore. This would benefit any 100% low floor rolling stock built for Philladelphia due to the extra space available.

1. More space between the wheels can allow for a wider aisle.
2. More space between opposing wheel pairs relative to the width of the aisle provides more room for bogie movement, improving performance on curves.
wigwagfan wrote:I'm not saying that the 100% low floor vehicle is a bad design by any stretch of the imagination; and if it were locally available it would certainly be a worthy option to look at. But your question up front was would any U.S. streetcar systems buy it, and I responded no - not because it's an inferior product, but because it doesn't meet Buy American requirements, nearly every Streetcar project in the United States is a new build line, and federal dollars are involved in almost every Streetcar project now. It's not a vehicle issue, it's a legal issue.
You respond no, but would Philadelphia, or any of the small number that can self fund buy it since the buy America requirements don't apply to them. And both Skoda and Inekon produce the design that was licensed to United streetcars. And Tonyp, who has contacted skoda says that it's Skoda, not Inekon that is linked to United streetcars.

EDIT:I should also mention that North American versions will also be wider, allowing for 2+2 seating and longer entrance ramps, so North American versions could have lower entrance heights than the Prague and Riga versions.
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Re: Curves, Grades and LFLRVs

Post by Patrick Boylan » Sun Oct 17, 2010 6:52 am

I don't know the dimensions, so I can't say that Philly actually has curves as tight as 10m as you say. If they do, I assume they're in critical places from the time they were built, and easing those curves nowadays costs too much.

For example, when it opened around 1907 the Market St subway used the inner 2 tracks and the various subway-surface streetcar lines used the outer 2 tracks of the Market St tunnel. Both sets of tracks looped around City Hall, and to my eye have the sharpest curves in the subway. Sometime by the 1950's they rebuilt the Market St subway so that it tunneled under City Hall, so they no longer needed the inner tracks around City Hall.

In the 1980's Philly built another railroad tunnel just north of City Hall. Because of clearance issues with the new tunnel they moved part of the subway-surface streetcar tunnel around City Hall so that it used the space that the Market St subway had used years ago. Also in the 1980's Philly bought new non-articulated cars. Again due to clearance issues they trimmed all the subway platforms a few inches, the new cars' steps were a bit lower than their PCC predecessors'.

I'm sure if there was some other remedial curve or tunnel work Philly could have done in the 1980's to handle cars with clearance issues, such as what today's low floor cars seem to have, they would have done so. Since Philly went for non-articulated 2 truck cars, I'm betting that they must have felt articulated cars, and presumably low floor articulated cars, aren't worth the effort.
I'm also assuming that whatever insurmountable clearance issues they might have are in the tunnel. I'd imagine straightening a curve would be a lot easier on the street surface than in the subway.

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